Designing Buildings in SolidWorks

In my last post titled “What is Dassault Systemes Live Buildings?” I mentioned an email that I received from a reader who wanted to know more about the Live Buildings that Dassault Systemes has been talking about. In that email he wrote, “We use for special buildings for modeling and estimating SolidWorks and like the work with it very much.” I found it rather astounding that someone was using a history based parametric MCAD system like SolidWorks to design buildings. I asked him to send screen shots of buildings that he had designed in SolidWorks. This is what he sent me. Notice the feature/assembly tree on the left. Click the image for a larger view.

This is a model of a building that contains a number of sub-assemblies which I assume describe various parts of the building.

I don’t know how many of you have see something like this before. But I find this absolutely awesome. I bet the people who founded SolidWorks didn’t imagine that their software would be used this way.

  • John


    I'm less surprised than you. Parametric modeling lends itself quite nicely to AEC applications.

    Efficient modeling technique is required, but the end results can be pretty impressive.

    With the recent releases of AMV SteelWorks and BuiltWorks from SolidAce, the future looks pretty bright.

    Several years ago I helped a construction company reverse engineer a large underground water drainage system (8-10ft. diameter x ~1750 ft. long).

    Using survey data taken every 6-10ft. of the existing pipe (8-12 XYZ points per section), we were able to model the existing conditions and design new steel liner sections that could be installed inside the old pipe.

    Accuracy was critical due to the high cost of installation and on-site modifications.

    Not a typical application for SolidWorks, but using their XYZ point cloud import and interference detection capabilities, it proved invaluable for this project.

    – John

  • AEC has been a small but significant percentage of SolidWorks sales for years. Several years ago the large construction steel manufacturer/assembler Permasteelisa decided to upgrade from AutoCAD to 3D, and went with SolidWorks over Revit, Graphisoft, etc.

  • John,

    I have seen people do quite a few weird things with SolidWorks. For example, one of my customers used my STL import add-in to import a 3D scan of a artery to analyze for blockages. I have also help a few architects import terrain data into SolidWorks to do some small things here and there. But this is the first time I have seen someone use SolidWorks from start to end as a full blown tool in AEC. That is what has surprised me.

  • To be fair, it seems like Permasteelisa has a lot to do steel and so I would not be surprised if they used SolidWorks at some point.

  • Rj

    Buildings are one thing, here is a company using SolidWorks to design oil and gas plants: (you can see several SW screenshots in the video). They even use one of the models for the SolidWorks launch screen:… (notice the full size big rig in the lower left hand corner to get a sense of scale).

  • Tony

    Some years ago, I read about an automated parking garage (IIRC, in South Africa) entirely modelled in Pro/E — it had about 500,000 parts, and it took several hours to load the complete model even in a computer with tons of memory.

  • Hoser_71

    I have seen many customers using many MCAD packages in the AEC arena (Inventor, CATIA, SWX, Rhino). Usually they are either manufacturers that create products that fit in a building, or they need to create high end surfaces that the AEC products can't handle.

    On a side note, Permasteelisa and Autodesk sent out a press release last year announcing that they were moving to Revit and Inventor.

  • Vladimir Malukh


    I guess you'd more surprised by finding out, that some advanced architects are using CATIA for AEC. I mean Ghery Technologies, guys, who designed famous Beijing National Stadium for 2008 games.

  • At Arup we have been using CATIA, Digital Project, Solidworks and Inventor for doing buildings, bridges and stadiums for quite a while now. At the end of the day they are solid objects and these packages really don't care what you model in them.

  • pgg

    I am an architect and have been using SolidWorks for designing buildings for several years now. I have extensive experience with Architectural Desktop and Revit (I have been architect of record for major projects in them), and have been extremely disappointed with their capabilities. I started investigating SW because part of my company then used it for ride system engineering. I now use SW 100% and have used it to design residential and commercial projects.
    There are a number of drawbacks, but many advantages as well.

    • nostromo

      I’m very interested… what are the drawbacks?

      • pgg

        @nostromo – SW is not optimized for making construction documents. For instance, there is no easy way to make cross sections bold. There is no easy way to make a large set of drawings with forward and back-referencing. There are no pre-made components for doors, windows, equipment available from mfr’s in SW format.
        oh, and @Mike Lauder, I’ve worked with Arup on a large project in Asia. Don’t recall seeing much 3D 🙂 Maybe your office is different.

  • Holy sh*t, what kind of super computers do they use??